In high school, I remember thinking sex, and really everything about female sexuality, should be easy. Surely, if you were a well-adjusted woman, with a sense of self-awareness and self-worth, you'd be able to seek and give fulfillment in the realm of physical intimacy. I knew there were books about reinstating your libido. I'd heard the adult women in my life whisper about a lack of intimacy in their marriages, I'd even secretly watched an Oprah episode on the subject while my mom was upstairs napping. But I didn't really get what all the fuss was about. What, I thought, was so dang complicated? I was sure that the women dealing with all these issues were women that were doing something wrong.
Well: Fifteen-year-olds can be really, really dumb.
I had been married for nearly three years when I stopped wanting to "get busy" with the man to whom I'd pledged my life. It wasn't a decision I made, it wasn't the result of remembered childhood trauma and it didn't happen suddenly. It was a thing of degrees. One day after work, I realized it had been days since my husband and I had touched. We hadn't held hands, grazed against each other in bed or leaned against one another in over a week. I searched my memory for the last time we had been physically intimate and could hardly remember. Maybe three weeks ago? That night when he'd gotten home from that business trip? Or had we only talked about thinking about doing it?
There were a lot of reasons. We had a baby. My postpartum had been long and livid and I was still trying to patch up some of the holes it had left behind. My husband was going to school and working full time. I was at work most of the day and making up for the time I missed with my little girl in the hours when I got home. The mortgage was due. Sometimes hours weren't long enough. Other times, they were too long. But, as I waded through the good and bad reasons for our lack of intimacy, I realized there was only one real reason we weren't having sex.
I didn't want to. My sex drive, my libido, that thing I'd heard about on radio and TV shows, the thing I hadn't thought could ever really go away, had completely disappeared.
I suppose if the only thing missing from our marriage was the physical intimacy, I could have ignored the problem for a bit longer. But as we drifted apart physically, I could also feel us drifting apart emotionally. Our long kisses good night and physical intimacy had been a moment of communion, a time when just the two of us could walk away from the world and acknowledge our mutual love, respect and dedication to one another. In our marriage, physical and emotional intimacy went hand in hand. When we kissed more, we talked more and vice versa. Our lack of physical intimacy had also resulted in a lack of time with our best and truest selves. I was living in the same home as the man I loved, sleeping on opposite corners of the same bed, and yet, I missed him.
I realized I wasn't willing to miss him anymore.
I cried that day. There were tears of fear and disappointment, sure. No one likes to have to confront a problem. But there were also tears of compassion and relief. Compassion, because suddenly, I knew what all those women had been talking about all those years. I understood, truly for the first time, the complexity of female sexuality and the drive behind it. Relief, because a solution can't be found until the problem is named. I'd found my problem and I knew -- I knew -- my marriage, and the life I was building, was worth the trouble of finding a solution. My husband deserved that kind of work and attention, sure. But the realization that rocked me that day and stays with me still, is that I deserved it, too.
I tell this story to illustrate a point: women with low libidos are not an anomaly. Over 40 percent of women have struggled with or will struggle with a low sex drive.
I propose we start having honest conversations about female sexuality: its highs, lows and everything in between. What if we were honest about the times when it is just so hard? How would it help your sister, next door neighbor and friends? How would it help you?
First and foremost, it would remove the sense of isolation that can accompany so many of us on our sometimes difficult sexual journey. There's no shame in the struggle. We each deserve to know we are not alone. That is a beautiful and productive first step in the very right direction.
Many women feel their low sex drive is affecting their relationship. If you think you may be one of them, you could have a condition known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). To learn more about a clinical research study for women with the condition, visit www.reconnectstudy.com or call 844-903-0303.